Ribblesdale Original Sheep Cheese
In no particular order, I am going to describe each of the 16 cheeses that we make: where we get the milk, how we make it and how it tastes. Here is a picture of our Ribblesdale Original Sheep.
I really like this cheese – it is nutty, buttery, rich, slightly yellow in appearance and firm in texture; we mature it to over a year in age to allow those rich flavours to fully develop. Sales this year of our Original Sheep have increased by about 25% on last year, although I have to confess, I do not know why, other than it is a super cheese with a long shelf life of 3 months +.
I probably enjoy making this cheese the most, of all the cheeses we make, although it is the hardest work. The reason for this is that we make 2,000 litres at a time in two vats, staggered so that we don’t have to take the whey off both at the same time. As readers will know, we specialise in goat cheese; goat milk will generally give you a yield of about 10% on average, so, for example, if you have 1,000 litres in your vat, it will yield about 100kgs which can be shovelled by one person, though it is easier with two – either Stu and I or Stu and Mark.
With ewe’s milk, you could get a yield of about 17-20%, depending on the lactation cycle. So for 2,000 litres, you could be looking at 400kgs which is an awful lot of curd to shovel, mill and pot up, so really hard work! A job for all of us: Stu, Mark, me and Lydia, we all muck in and make the sheep cheese. Then, there is potting out and washing up all the moulds – it takes forever! I think that one is at the top of everyone’s groan list! Despite all this, I enjoy making this sheep cheese as it sets beautifully in about 20 minutes, cuts really well and I like the unusual formation of the curd pieces after scalding. Stu usually cuts the big vat which is a two handed job because there is so much curd, whilst I cut the little vat and generally look after that whilst Mark and Stu are taking care of the big vat.
We make a smoked version of our Original Sheep too – we smoke it ourselves in our little smoking machine, over oak chippings.
Our milk comes from Simon Stott in Chipping, Lancashire. This is the nearest source of milking sheep and they are Frieslands. I had some great pictures from my last visit to Simon, but they were on the computer that was stolen, so I cannot reproduce them. For those of you who watch Country File, Simon is a regular, talking about his sheep. He runs a really good farm and has excellent quality milk.